how to stop thinking about it so much (…you can’t…)

The light in the doctor’s office is familiar, as are the colors of the walls and cupboards, the smooth surface of the examination table, the charts on the wall of the nervous and muscular systems. Even the color of the doctors hair is familiar. It seems she is always blonde.  I can’t count the number of doctors anymore, can’t tally the puzzled expressions, the trace lines of doubt stitched around the corners of their eyes and knotted right between the brow. Today she is wearing a cotton candy pink sweater set that matches her glasses, which are also pink, and strung from a glass-beaded chain around her neck. Her slacks do not wrinkle. She is kind, but prim and cool, detached from any emotion I am feeling.  She reaches a hand out and pats my knee, which is exposed through a hole in my jeans that appears vulgar in her presence.

“You’re probably just going to have to live with this for the rest of your life, but I can help you manage your pain.” I’m wading through a deep stream and my legs are catching on reeds in the brackish water. I try to speak but I feel as if I’ve swallowed cotton balls. I begin to cry. She stiffens and says nothing while I weep.

“You know, you really need to be getting these feelings out with a therapist, not with me,” she says after a moment.  Her voice jumps as she speaks, and her eyes narrow a bit. I sense fear. I am speechless, drowning in the cotton balls that are coming up from my insides.  I feel the shame coiling around me at the same time, so I am expanding and contracting all at once, and remain paralyzed in distress while she continues speaking.

“I think you have to stop thinking about it so much,” she says, her voice grave. “Otherwise you’re just a big painful vagina walking around New York City.”
“But that’s exactly what I am,” I stammer. She stares back at me blankly as I imagine my vulva lurching down Fifth Avenue like King Kong – misunderstood and emotionally scarred, careening past screaming tourists and hanging, heartbroken, off the Empire State Building. The room moves in and out of focus while this image begins to take shape. I am just a big painful vagina walking around New York City, and that’s it for me.

Stop thinking about it so much, the doctors words taunt as my jeans rub and chafe and the pain corkscrews between my legs. Stop thinking about it so much, she jeers, once I’m perched uncomfortably on the edge of the subway bench. Stop thinking about it so much, she chirps, as I trudge wearily up the stairs of my 5th floor walkup, the throbbing between my legs pulsing in time with my new mantra.

4 thoughts on “how to stop thinking about it so much (…you can’t…)

  1. My daughter just found out she has this. She is a student in NYC. We were thinking of going to Mayo Clinic but interested in who you went to.
    Thanks for your story. The beginning matches my daughter to a t, but fortunately the nurse practioner knew what it was immediately.
    I almost went through grief about it, thinking she would never have a happy sex life/relationship.
    At the moment she is trying an estrogen cream. I feel like surgery is in her future but don’t want just anyone doing this important surgery.

    1. Hi Jennifer. First of all, I’m so happy that your daughter is getting diagnosed while she is still a college student – it has long been my hope and prayer that the knowledge on this topic would grow and help lead to earlier diagnosis. The surgery is a major decision and I definitely did my homework before settling on Dr. Andrew Goldstein at the Center for Vulvovaginal Disease, and he performed my surgery in NY. (He also has an office in DC). There are other qualified surgeons, of course, but he is probably the most experienced as he has been a pioneer in the field and perfected a very successful technique. (I have unfortunately, heard from women whose surgeries were not performed according to this technique, and therefore were not as successful.) I recommend you check out as well as the National Vulvodynia Association – I wish you and your daughter the best of luck. If the surgery is indeed in her future, I recommend getting it at your earliest convenience. It changed my life!

      1. THANK YOU! Thank you so much for your quick response! I have read about Dr Goldstein so it is reassuring to hear about your good experience. Thank you for speaking out! I had never heard about this and when my daughter struggled with tampons we got her to the doctor(actually after me saying “just relax” to her about using the tampons because I had never heard of this) . I’m so glad it was sooner rather than later. I already notice her pulling away from relationships bc she doesn’t want to deal with the sex issue. Girls and women need to hear your story! Thanks

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